“Science is fundamentally amazing. There just isn't a fact that isn't remarkable. What drew me to write about science is that, although I had been a terrible student of science at school, I was certain that there must be some level at which even I could engage with science.”—
Bill Bryson, author of the fantastic book A Short History of Nearly Everything
Science: This is for everyone.
“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”—Bill Bryson, from Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe
“For you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and curiously obligating manner to create you. It's an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, co-operative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally under appreciated state known as existence.”— Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
“Shakespeare’s vocabulary changed considerably as he aged. Jespersen notes that there are some 200 to 300 words to be found in early plays that are never repeated. Many of these were provincialisms that he later shed, but which independently made their way into the language later- among them cranny, beautified, homicide, aggravate, and forefathers. It has also been observed by scholars that the new terms of his younger years appeal directly to the senses (snow-white, fragrant, brittle) while the coinages of the later years are more often considered with psychological considerations.”
From The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson
“Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By the most astounding stroke of luck an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.”—Bill Bryson. Today in the river.
“It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of all the intoxicating existence we've been endowed with. But what's life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be , is every bit as strong as ours--arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don't. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment's additional existence. Life, in short, just wants to be.”—Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
“Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth's mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result -- eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly -- in you.”—Bill Bryson - from A Short History of Nearly Everything
“But that's the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don't want to know what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” ”— Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
“Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By the most astounding stroke of luck an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.”—Bill Bryson
(Via whiskey river)
I responded to something my sister said recently with a little joke, and one of her friends in reply said, “I think what she really meant was…” As though, as her sister, I wouldn’t know what she really meant in this instance. I therefore must pass on the following hilarious excerpt from Bill Bryson, an author I would recommend, especially his Notes from a Big Country, from which this excerpt is taken.
“Here’s my tip of the week. Don’t make jokes in America. Even in experienced hands-and I believe I can speak with some authority here- a joke can be a dangerous thing.
I came to this conclusion recently while passing through Customs and Immigration at Logan Airport in Boston. As I approached the last immigration officer, he said to me: “Any fruit or vegetables?”
I considered for a moment. “Sure, why not,” I said. “I’ll have four pounds of potatoes and some mangos if they’re fresh.”
Instantly, I could see that I had misjudged my audience and that this was not the man who ached for banter. He looked at me with one of those slow, dark, cerebrally challenged expressions that you never want to see in a uniformed official, but especially in a US Customs and Immigration officer because, believe me, these people have powers you really do not want to put to the test. When I say they have the legal right interupt your passage I mean it in every way possible.
Luckily, this man appeared to conclude that I was incredibly thick. “Sir,” he enquired more specifically, “are you carrying any items of a fruit or vegetable nature?”
“No, sir, I am not,” I answered at once and fed him the most respectful and groveling look I believe I have ever mustered.
“Then keep moving, please,” he said.
Irony is, of course the key word here. Americans don’t use it much. (I’m being ironic; they don’t use it at all.) In most circumstances this is actually rather a nice thing. Irony is cousin to cynicism, and cynicism is not a virtuous emotion. Americans-not all of them, but a significant portion-have no need for either one. Their approach to everyday encounters is trusting, straightforward, almost touchingly literal. They don’t expect any verbal slight of hand in conversations, so it tends to throw them when you employ it.
We have a neighbor on whom I tested this hypothesis. I passed his house after a storm one morning to see that he was cutting a tree into smaller pieces and loading them onto his car. ‘Ah, I see you are camouflaging your car,’ I remarked drily. He looked at me for a moment. “No,” he said emphatically. “I had a tree come down in the storm the other night and now I’m taking it away for disposal.’
After that, I couldn’t stop myself from making little jokes at him. The crunch, so to speak, came when I was telling him one day about some disastrous airline trip I’d had, which left me stranded overnight in Denver.
‘Who did you fly with?’ He asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I replied. ‘They were all strangers.’
He looked at me with an expression that betrayed a kind of panic. ‘No, I meant which airline did you fly with.’
It was just after this that my wife ordered me to cease making jokes with him because apparently our chats were leaving him with migraine.”